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Some notes on King Tiglath-pileser III (745 - 727 BC, after Jonah)

Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.

Tiglath-pileser (tiglath-pi-lezer), or Tilgath-pilneser (tilgath-pil-nezer). [Heb. Tiglath Pil'eser and Tilgath-pilne'eser; Assyrian Tukulti-apil-Esharra, meaning "my trust is the son of Esharra (that is, the god Ninib)." In Aramaic inscriptions the name is spelled Tgltplysr and Tkltplsr.] The name of 3 Assyrian kings, of whom only the last played a role in Biblical history. Hence, only Tiglath-pileser III (745 – 727 BC) will be discussed here. He is twice designated Pul in the Bible (1Chr 5:26; cf. 2Ki 15:19), which may have been his original name. That Pul and Tiglath-pileser III designate the same king can be clearly demonstrated: Where Ptolemy's canon mentions Poros as king of Babylon, the Babylonian king list has Pulu, and the Babylonian Chronicle calls the king of that time Tiglath-pileser. Tiglath-pileser III was a usurper who seems to have taken a throne name already made famous by great kings of the past. He was an ambitious king and his accomplishments prove that he was worthy of the famous name he bore, for he became one of the greatest kings of the empire period. He extended his power in all directions, and campaigned frequently in Syria and Palestine. King Menahem of Israel paid him tribute (2 Ki 15:19) that the Assyrian king might help to confirm him in the kingship. This tribute is mentioned in the display inscription found in Tiglath-pileser's palace at Calah (ANE 283), as well as a tribute of "Azriau from Iuda," believed to be King Azariah of Judah, which payment is not mentioned in the Bible (ANE 282). During the reign of King Pekah of Israel Tiglath-pileser received a request from King Ahaz of Judah to come to his aid against Pekah and Rezin of Damascus. This request was accompanied by a large tribute (ch 16:7,8), which is mentioned in building inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser. The Assyrian king complied with Ahaz's request and invaded Israel, taking from it all its northern territories and its possessions in Transjordan (ch 15:29), which he incorporated into the Assyrian Empire. He also captured and destroyed Damascus and killed its king, Rezin (ch 16:9). When King Pekah of Israel was assassinated by Hoshea (ch 15:30), Tiglath-pileser was campaigning in southwestern Palestine, and had probably given his approval to the murder, since he claimed to have placed Hoshea on the throne (ANE 284). Tiglath-pileser was the 1st king to introduce wholesale transplantations of subjugated nations to other countries in order to uproot them, kill their nationalistic spirit and sentiments, and destroy old loyalties, in this way to facilitate his reign over his conquered peoples.

From "The Ancient World From c. 1400 to 586 B.C." in Vol. 2 of: Nichol, Francis D., The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1978.

The Formation of the New Assyrian Empire by Tiglath-pileser III (745 – 727 B.C.).—Tiglath-pileser III came into power as a usurper during a palace revolt at Calah in 746, but he did not actually take the throne until the second month in 745. That he chose for his ruling name that of a great former empire builder reveals his ambitions and plans. Like the great Tiglath-pileser I, he systematically and consistently pursued the plan to re-establish the Assyrian Empire.

The new king found himself face to face with three main problems of foreign policy which had to be solved in order to re-establish Assyrian power: (1) relations had to be clarified with Babylonia, which had fallen prey to the southern Aramaeans (Chaldeans); (2) Assyrian dominion over the Syro-Palestinian areas had to be re-established; (3) the power of Urartu, the great northern rival of Assyria, had to be curtailed. The way in which he solved these problems gives him the right to be called one of the greatest of Assyrian rulers.

The first task was a solution of the Babylonian question, which Tiglath-pileser carried out in two states. In the year of his accession he went to Babylonia, defeated the Aramaean tribes that occupied great parts of the country, and deported them to other parts of his empire. The weak Babylonian king Nabonassar, whose power hardly reached beyond his city walls, was, for the time being, left unmolested. Two short-lived kings were tolerated on Babylon's throne after Nabonassar's death in 734 BC, since Tiglath-pileser was engaged elsewhere and did not have time for Babylonia. As soon as he had his hands free, however, he set out to restore order to the chaotic political situation in Babylon, where Aramaean sheiks were the real rulers. He turned against them, decisively defeated them, and, in an act without precedent for an Assyrian king, “took the hands” of the god Marduk in token of accepting the kingship of Babylon—under the ruling name Pulu. Recognizing that Assyria would never be able to rule Babylonia, because of its own inferiority complex with respect to the superior Babylonian culture, he conceived a novel solution that consisted of uniting the two states as equals under the rulership of one king—who was thus monarch of both Assyria and Babylonia.

Tiglath-pileser's second task, the reconquest of Syria, was accomplished during the process of a number of military campaigns. He encountered strong opposition, especially at the cities of Arpad (now Tell Erfâd), north of Aleppo, and Samal (now Zenjirli), whose conquest was time consuming and costly. Other city states surrendered only after bloody defeats. However, after three long campaigns the majority of the Syrian states once more belonged to the Assyrian Empire. Finally Damascus and Israel were also defeated. The state of Damascus (Syria) was made into an Assyrian province, as were the northern and eastern parts of Israel and the coastal area of Palestine. Samaria, Israel's capital, was left with the southern part of the country as a semi-independent vassal state. Hence, we read in the Bible and in royal Assyrian annals that Menahem, of Israel, paid tribute to Tiglath-pileser (Pul; 2 Kings 15:19), and of the replacement of Pekah by Hoshea. The king of Judah, who had sought Tiglath-pileser's help against Samaria and Damascus, and who went to Damascus to be received as Assyria's vassal (2 Kings 16:10), is also mentioned in the Assyrian records. It is therefore not astonishing that the first Assyrian king mentioned by name in the Bible is Tiglath-pileser. He appears there under his Assyrian as well as under his Babylonian name, Pul (2 Kings 16:7, 10; 2 Chron. 28:20; 2 Kings 15:19; and 1 Chron 5:26, where the Hebrew text should be translated, “And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, even the spirit of Tilgath-pileser king of Assyria”).

Tilgath-pileser's third task was the subjugation of Urartu, which he began by conquering the states allied with its king, Sardur II. By overrunning the northern Mesopotamian and Syrian city states, much of Sardur's strength was broken. The decisive battle, however, was fought at Kummuh, west of the Euphrates, where Sardur was badly defeated but was able to escape to his capital Tushpa (now Toprakkale) at Lake Van. Although Tiglath-pileser's subsequent siege of Tushpa was unsuccessful, Urartu's power was broken, and the Assyrians occupied the greater part of Urartu, making of it the province Ulluba.

After each conquest the Assyrian king transplanted the native populations to other parts of the empire. This policy resulted in a large-scale forced migration of peoples. Tiglath-pileser planned and succeeded in breaking the nationalistic spirit of the various nations, by tearing them away from their motherland and the soil they loved. This exchange of nations was intended to create an empire whose people would no longer consider themselves citizens of Urartu, Israel, Babylonia, or Damascus, but as citizens of Assyria. This singularly successful king thus initiated a policy followed by his Assyrian successors and later by the Babylonians. This policy came to have a decisive effect on the later history of the Near East.

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